Friday, December 30, 2005

December Update

I'm still working on Ambasadora and have been making great progress, especially with Rainer's character. I go through stages where I favor one character over another. Right now it's a dark haired Contractor who's just really self-centered and conceited. You know, the dangerous type women always fall for.

Also, I've been working on a gaming essay. It's either an inspiration for, or in response to, my XBOX Live renewal. I switched tags so I'm starting from level one again. I was reminded of this when out of 16 players in a Big Team Battle, my voice was the lowest in pitch.

This has proven more entertaining than frustrating. Granted, my team has only won 2 of the 5 most recent games, but the chatter is priceless. These kids are hilarious. I did have one guy raise my ire enough to let slip a couple of foul words, but he was a good sport and didn't report me, so no harm done. :)

And, I can't forget Quarry. I've been taking copious notes and am quite excited about this new project. So far, I like Adelaide a little better than Ceriwen.

Oh, I still haven't finished that proposal for the Virginia guidebook yet either. Lots to do before residency.

See most of you really soon!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Sydney Bristow as a Feminine Hero

I've tried to pattern my own female protagonist a little after Sydney Bristow from Alias because she's one of the few female heroes who has a vulnerable, feminine side and makes no apologies for showing it. (Part of this goes back to a discussion Diana Botsford, Christopher Paul Carey, and I had on the SHU boards this past semester.)

She knows she is just as beautiful in sweats with a ponytail as she is in evening wear and full make-up. She can kick ass better than most men but still cry without shame when she's hurt emotionally. And, she can be deceptive yet still loyal to friends and family.

The biggest flaw I see in Sydney and in many of my own characters? She's no fun. Is that how a hero has to be?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Author: Robert Tinnell

AUTHORS

While at the Morgantown Barnes 'n Noble the other night, I met Robert Tinnell, a writer of graphic novels. He was promoting his new book Feast of the Seven Fishes which was a collaboration with artists Ed Piskor and Alex Saviuk.

I told him about the module I was taking at SHU in January with Barry Lyga, which started a conversation about the future of graphic novels and how the WPF program at Seton Hill was taking a progressive step by exploring writing for media other than novels.

He had several of his books for sale, and I ended up with Feast, plus The Living and the Dead and The Black Forest. The last two are pretty dark, but well done.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

TOP 6 REASONS TO LOVE IKEA

TOP 6 REASONS TO LOVE IKEA:

NO.6 : the red, yellow, and blue flags that greet you at the doorway
NO.5 : the assembly instructions that use pictures instead of words
NO.4 : the room displays that are way cooler than anything you have in your own house
NO.3 : ligonberry juice
NO.2 : watching yuppies trying to load their Saabs with Magicker lights and Amorf rugs
NO.1 : half dozen of cinnamon rolls for $4

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Family: Tom and Heidi Ruby

FAMILY

Inspired by a call from my brother this morning...

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Tom and I on a fake Presidential Seal at some museum (Tom picked out that visor himself and wore it everywhere until it got smashed one day.)

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Riding a dinosaur at some roadside dive

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Puppies!

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Getting autographs from Minnie Mouse

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Me, Tom, and Julie, his girlfriend, at Disney World this past summer

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Guidebook Is Finished

TOP 5 THINGS I'M GOING TO DO NOW THAT THE GUIDEBOOK IS OFFICIALLY FINISHED:

NO. 1 : Play HALF LIFE 2
NO. 2 : Decorate for THE HOLIDAYS
NO. 3 : Finish RUSS HOWE'S story
NO. 4 : Read POISON STUDY
NO. 5 : Finish MY novel


I've been staying up most every night for a week, so of course last night I couldn't sleep either. But that turned out to be a good thing as I had lots of ideas to jot down. I have an idea for a short story that was influenced by all those Borderlands stories I read. Very weird shit. My track record isn't so good with short stories so we'll see how this goes.

Also, I had thoughts of poetry last night. Yeah, I know, I'm about as much of a poet as Aeryn Sun. (Only Farscape fans will get that one.) But, I've recently been inspired. The first poem is about dinosaurs and the second is about tree ferns.

Then I had an awesome promotional idea for the guidebook. The publicist dug most of the stuff I sent her so far and I think this is just as good, unique even.

Finally, I was going through the Word-A-Day e-mails that J always forwards to me and found four great words redivivus which is perfect for my new short story, lambent, maelstrom, and crepuscular which I'm working into some recent novel chapters. It's interesting because I often already know the definitions of the words, not redivivus, though, but just forget they're out there until I see them one at a time in those e-mails. Then one will resonate, and I'm like, "That's exactly the word I need for this part."

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Achievement: 2000 words

ACHIEVEMENTS

I've tried everyday since September 18 to reach that 2000 word a day mark and have failed miserably.

The closest I've ever gotten was around 1500 words, once. I pass the 1000 word mark, no problem. Then something happens between 1000 and 2000 words.

I'm hypothesizing that a forcefield goes up in my brain and allows only distractions to enter, like LJ, the SHU boards, e-mails, hunger, sleepiness. So, what I need is a deflector, something that shields me from the distractions and allows me to write the second 1000 words with the same vigor as the first 1000. When I get a patent on this deflector, I'll send one to each of you.

Word is Robert Sawyer can write 2000 words a day, so I'm thinking he's keeping that deflector design well-hidden. ;)

You better believe you're going to hear about it the first time I hit 2000! I'm working up to it. It's now become a challenge. And I can't back down from a challenge.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Group: Seton Hill WPF Critique Group Fall 2005

GROUPS

After our three hour chat last night I was inspired to post this pic of my critique group from Seton Hill University.

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Heidi Ruby Miller, Christopher Paul Carey, Mary SanGiovanni, and Rachael Pruitt


Sunday, September 18, 2005

Party: Book Party for Maria V. Snyder

Parties

We made it out east to Maytown, PA, for the Poison Study party yesterday, and it was so worth it.

Maria rented this neat little place called The Barn that had a great room with a fireplace (not burning of course as it was 91), a kitchenette, and a sitting area. Upstairs was the kids' area and apparently several stuffed bears. I never made it up there myself, but Jason was impressed. Outside there was a sitting area around a water garden and some beautiful landscaping.

We met many of her friends, family, (Her kids are adorable!) and writers from her group. One writer in particular we talked to most of the time, Steven Klotz. He and J discussed being mainstream and slipstreaming between genres. I talked about my sucky short stories.

I was impressed with the reviews she's received so far. She had them posted for us to read. (Great idea! I'm going to use that one later.) And, I have a copy of the book already. :) I'm going to write a review for Amazon and Barnes 'n Noble. (If anyone else is so inclined, it would help her out. I'm sure she'll reciprocate later.)

It made me excited about the book party we'll be having for our guidebook this spring. We're going to rent a pavilion at Kentuck Campground in Ohiopyle State Park and invite about 100 people. I LOOOVE to plan social events like this. I get it from my mum.

But, back to Maria. :) She looked great and was having a blast signing books and posing for pictures. It was inspiring. So much so that J and I talked story ideas and read critique partner submissions the whole drive home (almost 4 hours).

Now, I have to ask, CPC, are you going to have a book party for Myths of the Modern Age
? Even if you don't, I'll still give you a good review on Amazon. ;)

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Poem: Ode to Farscape

Poem

Ode to Farscape

Frelling awesome series!
Aeryn Sun and John Crichton, cutest couple ever crystallized
Rygel, father of hundreds, ruler of billions
Scarrans, they make storm troopers look like kittens
Cult following to rival Buffy's
Anybody else get Jool and Sikozu mixed up?
Please make a feature film, pretty please.
Einstein should have kept that wormhole info. to himself.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Poem: Ode to Han Solo

Poems

Here's my Ode to Han Solo in honor of tonight's midnight showing of
Star Wars III. (And, yes, I know he's not in this one, but I'm a
Gen-Xer, so I'm partial to the originals.)

Has a hairy companion
Aversion to carbonite
Nerf herder, according to some

Smuggler who sometimes gets boarded
Owed Jabba a lot of money
Lady Vader's husband
Officer in the Rebel Alliance

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Monday, May 16, 2005

Book: Echoes of Earth

Books

Echoes of Earth
by Sean Williams and Shane Dix
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There are only two books that I’ve read twice: Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and Echoes of Earth by Sean Williams and Shane Dix. In the case of Wrinkle, I wanted to see if a childhood favorite would hold the same magic after fifteen years-and, yes, it did-but, for Echoes, it was all about the book’s style.

I don’t know which of these guys deserves credit for the great dialog and likeable characters and which one has the knack for creating interesting places, but the combination of the three left scenes from the book floating in my mind long after I had read them. Since I strive for the memorability factor in my own writing, I dissected a scene to discover what made it so lasting for me.

In Chapter 1.1.9, the protagonist, Peter Alander, visits the second of ten enormous alien-built spindles that surround the planet Adrasteia in the Upsilon Aquarius system, over seventy-two light-years from Earth. The chapter opens with a problem; Peter walks through a door in the spindle hub and instantaneously ends up in Spindle 3, thousands of kilometers away. His engram companion, Cleo Sampson, disappears, prompting Peter to panic. (Note: An engram is a copy of a person’s thoughts and personality which can appear as a hologram.)

This opening action plays out through short, crisp dialog between Peter and the Gifts, his guides through this alien technology. Also, we engage in Peter’s deep penetration POV--a stylistic favorite of mine—which gives us the psychological explanation for Peter’s familiarity with the doors to each spindle. They come from doors within his own life. It shows how we as humans are more willing to accept the alien through the familiar.

Once Cleo finds Peter again, he can relax and concentrate on the contents of this spindle and eventually the others. Through his POV we see the fascinating interiors: a planetarium, an art gallery, a library, and a sensory deprivation area. The planetarium shows all the stars of the galaxy. We have a hint from the Gifts that this will be useful later.

The art gallery is seemingly endless and contains wondrous examples of galactic art. We get a close-up of a few of these pieces, such as an orb that transports Peter to a beach (in-mind only) and a dizzying Escher-esque sculpture. This was where the chapter went from detail-deficient to very specific.

In the library, there are actual volumes of books, again perhaps to make Peter comfortable with the alien-ness of the place. The sensory deprivation area seems to be there for Peter to rest, something he has not done for several days at this point.

The end of the chapter shows a humanizing of Peter, an engram himself who chooses to live in an android body. (An example of that same theme of familiarity helping to assimilate the alien?) He asks his companion, Cleo, to stay and be with him while he sleeps. Until now, he has avoided most contact with her because she reminds him of what he is and what he is not.

That was quite a bit for a twelve-page chapter, and that’s why it’s memorable.

Overall, I liked the first part of this book set in Adrasteia better than the second part set in Sol system. Perhaps the concept of a huge floating frame inhabiting the space where most of our planets used to be was just too alien for me. (I probably needed more of the familiar to be comfortable.) The short to moderate-length chapters worked well for my reading style, and not surprisingly I prefer that in my writing style as well.

The biggest complaint I have is with an unsatisfactory resolution to a subplot. It involved Peter’s obsession with the woman that his original loved. Maybe we weren’t to know what happened to her engram--or I just missed the references. But even the second time through, I found myself still wondering about her.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Book: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing a Novel

Books

To start off my new blog, I'll post my required reading journal. The first book is by my current mentor in the Seton Hill WPF Program.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing a Novel
by Tom Monteleone
Idiot's Guide

I probably reference this book at least twice a week, mostly because I have issues with setting, or my conspicuous lack thereof. Tom says to establish the setting early and let the reader know where she is before you start into the story specifics. You would think that after writing fourteen chapters I would remember this. The problem is, I’m one of these people he refers to in his Style section who ‘prefers the loose look of watercolors’ as opposed to the ‘precise, realistic lines of pen-and-ink.’

You know what he would say to that?

'The key…is balance.’

Balance also happens to be the first sub-heading in the Setting section, so I suppose that shows its importance. Here he gives the perfect recipe for story advancement:

1. Mix your action, dialog, and description of setting. (the ingredients)
2. Remember to use your passages as instruments of pacing. (the 3-speed mixer)
3. Use scene-setting to break up long runs of dialogue or action. (the mixer at work)
4. Work in some creativity to taste. (the secret ingredient)

And, just like anything else I make from a recipe, it never turns out exactly like it’s supposed to. Maybe that’s why the title of Chapter 15 is Another Name for Writing Is Rewriting. Tom reminds you throughout the book that it’s more important to get everything down first, then go over it with the red pen later.

The rewrite is also when he suggests to liven up your language with interesting verbs, master the use of simile and metaphor (like my recipe from above), get rid of the cliches, and pay attention to syntax. Oh, and run the spellcheck.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself and almost forgot about my two favorite chapters; Dialogue and Characters. Since my own work is very character-driven, it’s obvious why I’m also drawn to dialogue. Like Tom says, it’s a good, subtle way to include backstory, set the mood, create tension, show the character’s background, and make each character sound like an individual. This last one is tougher than it sounds.

For one thing, the rhythm and cadence for each character has to be a little different. He suggests that as you keep writing and get to know your characters, you’ll also know how they will respond verbally in certain situations; and, much of this depends upon their schema. In essence, the reader should be able to tell who’s talking in most instances even without the dialogue tag. (Oh, and a thing about that dialogue tag--the best one is still plain old ‘said’, sans adverb.)

Much of a character’s dialogue style will depend upon which archetype he or she most closely resembles. In my own writing, I have a large cast, so sometimes the archetypes overlap. For example, there is one main protagonist and antagonist, but a few others serve to fill those roles throughout the work as well. My skeptic and conscience guy are one in the same, but my emotionalist and her opposite, the rationalist seem content to stay within those limits.

The trick with archetypes, as Tom cautions, is not to make them stereotypes. To avoid this, you can work with a character’s physical appearance, cultural and social influences, psychological background, and previous experiences. Let’s take my military guy, for instance. Yeah, he’s big and muscled, strong as an elephant, and highly trained, but he’s also very happy and carefree, quick to smile and joke. He’s not dark and broody and always thinking of the next big battle. (There’s another guy who’s like that, the scientist.)

Now, as useful as the first part of Tom’s book is, I have to tell you, I can’t wait until I have to reference chapters 18-20. Those are the ones on Marketing, Publicity, and Publishing. Maybe next year.